You often hear people say that “there aren’t enough hours in a day.” But whether or not 24 hours is “enough,” depends entirely on your ability to manage your time effectively and purposefully.
Purposeful time management is not just about delivering against deadlines. It’s about delivering against those deadlines, without compromising on all the other parts of yourself and your life that need to be tended to. This approach can empower you to show up as your best, most passionate, creative, and compassionate self — for your work, your family, your colleagues, and your community.
Practice the following seven steps and you will end your week more energized and accomplished than you started it.
Start your day with gratitude.
This is the simplest, yet most powerful way to set the tone for the day ahead. Practicing gratitude on a regular basis has been proven to increase happiness, lower cortisol levels, and even improve resilience. Just a few minutes in the morning can set you up for success no matter what fire drills or unexpected road bumps come your way. Get in the habit of starting your day by listing three things you are grateful for. The key is not to overthink it. Your bed, a fresh cup of coffee, a lunch date later that day, the sunshine outside your window, these all count!
Plan around your energy levels.
Everyone has different days of the week or times of day when they are most productive. The second step of purposeful time management is becoming aware of your own power hours so you can plan your schedule around these times. If you’re a morning person, schedule your “Get Sh*T Done Time” in the AM, when you know you’ll be the most focused. If you don’t become a fully operating human until after noon, leave the morning for some of the more mindless to-do’s that require less of your attention. Similarly, some people are raring to go on Monday’s while others need a slow start to ramp up for the work week. There’s no right or wrong — it’s about recognizing what works best for YOU.
Check off the most important to-do’s FIRST.
Prioritizing your to-do list is critical. Start by identifying the most important task first. This is either a task that is both high in importance and high in urgency, or a task that will make all of your other to-do’s easier. Once you’ve identified this task, try to get it done as early on in your day or week as possible. This will ensure you are still fresh and it will give you a sense of accomplishment from the get-go.
Set time constraints.
A ticking clock can be one of the most effective productivity tools. Science shows that people are more productive when working under a time constraint. When you have a defined period of time to get it done, you don’t have the luxury to procrastinate or waste time on indecision. According to Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, the same task can take you 30 minutes or 90 minutes, depending on how much time you allocate towards it. As you plan out your day or week, set deadlines for yourself and block off slightly less time that you think you need. You may not always reach your goal, but shoot for the moon and you’ll land in the stars.
Focus on ONE task at a time.
Busy people are often forced to become skilled multi-taskers, but you might be better off unlearning these skills. It turns out, people are much more productive when focusing on a single task at a time. This means no distractions from colleagues, kids, social media, you name it. If this sounds unrealistic for you, start with shorter blocks of time. Give yourself 10 or 20 minutes to focus on one specific task and then a 5 minute break to allow for those distractions. For bigger tasks, break it down into smaller chunks that can be accomplished in those shorter timeframes.
As you’re blocking out your time, try to group similar activities together. For example, schedule all your meetings or calls for the week on Tuesdays and Thursdays or daily between 2–5pm, or create a whole week’s worth of social content in a few hours on Monday instead of dedicated 30 minutes every day.
Prioritize Creative Time, Self-care Time, and Connecting Time.
We need to move away from the belief that time spent on things other than work or chores on your to-do list is “unproductive.” The truth is, dedicating time to being creative, caring for yourself, and connecting with others is going to make you MORE productive, not less. These activities connect you to your WHY, giving you a greater sense of purpose and drive. Try to schedule time for three types of activities in particular:
Creative Time = time to brainstorm, get inspired, work through new ideas, write, read, journal, go on a walk, or whatever ignites your creative spark!
Self-care Time = time dedicated to feeding your mind, body, and soul — this may include a workout, meditation, a warm bath, time outdoors, whatever you need to refuel in order to show up as your best self.
Connecting Time = time to connect with others without distraction. This may be a family dinner, coffee with a co-worker, or a long-distance Skype call with an old friend.
Embrace down time.
There will be moments in between scheduled blocks of time that are wide open. We recommend this in order to allow for the unexpected calls, meetings, to-do’s, or other demands that will inevitably arise. In the off chance that nothing comes up, however, it’s important to learn to embrace these moments instead of feeling the need to fill the gap with busywork.